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Climate change could wipe out coral reefs by 2100: scientists

Ocean temperatures are higher than ever recorded

Climate change could destroy nearly all remaining coral reefs by the end of the century, according to research released Monday at the annual Ocean Sciences Meeting in San Diego.

Increased ocean temperatures are a particular risk to corals, as warmer temperatures prompt them to release symbiotic algae that bleaches them, putting them at higher risk of death.

Researchers led by Renee Setter, a biogeographer at the University of Hawaii Manoa, found most parts of the ocean where reefs currently exist will not be suitable habitats by 2045, based on a model that simulated increased surface temperature, acidity, pollution and overfishing.

“Trying to clean up the beaches is great and trying to combat pollution is fantastic. We need to continue those efforts,” Setter said. “But at the end of the day, fighting climate change is really what we need to be advocating for in order to protect corals and avoid compounded stressors.”

When the simulation was extended to 2100, “Honestly, most sites are out,” Setter said, with only a few small areas of Baja California and the Red Sea among the areas projected to remain viable.

Setter said the majority of damage was projected to be the result of ocean acidification and rising temperatures, with projected increases in human pollution likely to cause less damage comparatively, as humans have done enough damage to the reefs that there are few sites left to impact.


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